Paint the House - Do It Yourself Exterior House Painting for Moms


The old homestead was looking a little shabby. We wanted to get some siding but I'm really not too keen on vinal siding and the new pressed cement shingles are lovely to look at but too expensive. I'm nuts about cedar shingles but the cost is prohibitive.

In today's economy, we are all learning to make do. So, we decided to forgo the siding and jut paint the house. The cost of paint and materials added up to nearly $600.00 but that is still a fraction of the cost of even the cheapest (and ugliest) siding.

The decision to paint the house is a big one. What color to paint is is the fun part. How high on a ladder are you willing to climb? Are your grown sons or agile teenagers around to help out? How will you manage the time - and it is a time consuming job - there's prep work, hole filling, replacement of rotten wood and shingles, cracks to fill, shopping and cleanup.

It's a big job,yes, the reward will last for years. the neighbours will like you for it!

We, frankly, had let our house go until it started to get on my nerves. The old color had faded to an indistinguishable blah and the trim was peeling and ugly. The plastic shutters had faded and had a few broken slats. It was embarrassing!

So, before your home becomes a blight on the neighborhood, try painting!

The House Was Looking Shabby

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

A Variety of Color Makes These Houses Look Charming

(photo by TWS@stock.xchng)
(photo by TWS@stock.xchng)

Before You Paint

We'd been talking about painting for some time but when one son moved home for a couple of months and another announced that he was moving to another city, we jumped. We had live-in volunteers!

Time Management - However long you think the job will take - it will probably take longer. Schedule days off work after checking the weather report. Don't paint if there is a chance of rain. Remember that as nice as the place looks with one coat of paint, you need at least 2 coats to make the color look rich and last long.

If you don't want to sand between coats, don't buy gloss or semi-gloss paint. Satin or matte finishes can be painted over without sanding.

Although many modern paints dry very quickly, the paint may not be completely cured even though it feels dry. If you lean a ladder against uncured paint, it could leave a mark so it's best to apply the second coat the next day.

If the weather is hot, follow the shade. Painting in bright sunlight can reduce visibility with glare. Painting in the heat will tire you quickly. Even in the shade, hard work on a hot day makes you sweat, so drink plenty of water.

Plant to work for a week to ten days, depending on weather conditions and the number of workers you have.

Plan on working around one another and the available equipment. If you have only one tall ladder, someone else can work the low areas.

Buy rollers with extensions, you'll be able to reach quite high.

House Painting - So Many Colors To Choose From!

(photo by pitabox987@stock.xchng)
(photo by pitabox987@stock.xchng)

Shop Around for Paint

Paint prices can vary from store to store. Watch for sales and specials. It may prove more economical to purchase paint in large 5 gallon buckets.

Eco-friendly paint products are on the market and labelled as GREENGUARD or LEED which meet requirements for low odor and toxicity.

What Color to Paint Your House?

Choosing a color is great fun. With siding, you'll be stuck with one color for a long, long time. Maybe that's why so many people went with such drab siding. Paint will look crummy in 10 years. By that time, you'll be sick of the color anyway. Or it will look outdated.

You have so many choices! Maybe you want something neutral or a natural color. Older homes often look good in bright colors. You can pick up colors from your garden. Then, when you do choose the color, there are so many variations!

Drive around and see which houses you find attractive. Look at homes somewhat similar to your own. Drive into the kinds of neighborhoods where people may be a bit less conservative in their color choices. You might see a color combination that you've never dreamed of, something that just looks good. Check out magazines, books, and paint brochures for inspiration.

When you gather color chips from the hardware store, take them outside so you can see what they look like in a natural light. The color we eventually chose looked completely different outside than it did on the kitchen table. Even if the paint department displays paint chips in 'natural outdoor lighting,' still take them outside. And think it over.

Don't go crazy and choose a color you may regret. Watch out for trendy colors or odd color combinations, or colors of favorite outfits or sports teams. Remember, you are going to have to live with those colors for about 10 years.

We once painted our house a blush tan that wound up looking pink. Years later when we painted it light brown, people still said we lived in a pink house. That color just stuck in their minds.

This time we chose a medium green called Olivine. It made the white trim look beautiful. I figured we'd go with brown or dark green shutters. Maybe cream. But when I noticed my cobalt blue wooden arch into the back yard next to the fresh paint - it looked wonderful. So we went with cobalt blue. If that arch had not been there, I'd never have chosen that shade of blue.

House Painting - Keep Your Workers Hydrated and Well Fed

During the project, I made sure there were plenty of drinks on hand. Besides the obvious water, I offered homemade tea, herbal tea, instant tea, 2 kinds of juices, and soda.

Make food preparation quick and simple. I bought several roasts on sale. Slow cook the roast in a disposable aluminum pan covered with aluminum foil on the grill. Set the pan in the center of your charcoal grill, but place the coals around the edges. Leave the air vents slightly open. Baste occasionally. Have rolls on hand or toss together a quick pasta or potato salad. Finish with a nice big chopped salad. Don't forget the paper plates.

Feed those workers well with protein rich meals and any of their favorite treats. Ice cream goes well. Make your volunteers happy.

Of course, you won't have time to attend to regular chores. Allow those unwilling to climb high ladders to mop floors, etc. Or, simply forget about the mess.

House Painting - Set Up a Staging Area For Convenience

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

Before House Painting, Pressure Wash the House

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

House Paint Prep Work

  • Scrape and sand all loose, flaking paint
  • Fill holes and cracks with an exterior grade filler
  • Check all wood for soft spots (rotten wood) and remove and replace
  • Remove mailbox, shutters, porch lights, and decorations. Move all porch furniture, planters, and decorative items well away from the house. (Find a nice shady spot in the yard for the porch furniture to provide a restful place for breaks and meals alfresco), Cover the porch furniture so your workers don't smear paint from their clothing onto the furniture.
  • Spray and clean off mold, mildew, and other stains with a bleach solution. Allow to dry.
  • Pressure wash the house. Some pressure washers are powerful enough to remove loose paint.
  • Make a list. Purchase everything you'll need to do the job to avoid extra trips to the hardware store looking like hell in your paint clothes (and you won't smell so good either). It never fails. If you go to the hardware store looking like a total slob you will run into somebody you haven't seen in 10 years. And they'll look great.)
  • Trim shrubbery that touches the house.
  • Decide on a staging area. Keep all equipment at the staging area. Even if it's easier to drop that tool nearby, put it back in the staging area. That makes it easier to locate tools and supplies quickly and easily.
  • Talk to the people in the paint department. They'll help you decide on how much paint to buy. In general, a small home of 1300 square feet will need about 10 gallons of paint and 1 gallon of trim paint. A medium house of 2500 square feet should need 15 gallons of paint and 2 gallons of trim paint. A large house needs 20 gallons of paint and 3 gallons of trim paint. Usually, gloss or semi gloss is used for trim.
  • Gather up some sloppy clothes and old shoes. You will get paint on yourself. Paint doesn't wash out.

Get Some Free Help

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

Exterior House Painting - Materials and Tools

  • Paint - exterior house paint and trim paint
  • Extension ladder and A frame ladder
  • Roller and roller covers. A roller with an extension helps you reach some high areas
  • Paint brushes of various sizes and shapes for edging and odd spots
  • Scraper - buy a good one with a sharp blade
  • Sandpaper - a coarser grade
  • Filler - exterior crack and hole filler
  • Caulk to seal cracks around doors and windows
  • Rope always comes in handy
  • Drop cloths - old sheets do not provide protection
  • Rags
  • Old clothes and shoes
  • Painter's tape if you want to tape off areas to protect from paint
  • A wire hanger - you can hang a can of paint from a ladder rung with a twisted coat hanger
  • Trash bags
  • Safety goggles or glasses for scraping and sanding
  • Gloves, if you like to wear gloves
  • Pressure washer - buy, rent, or borrow

Edge areas around windows and doors with a brush

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

Shutters

Plastic shutters may be lighter and cheaper but the colors fade. Wooden shutters need 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint. It may prove more economical to use a product that is both paint and primer.

All finished - what a difference!

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

House Painting

Decide on your own way of organizing the process that best fits the schedules of your volunteers. Plan around who is using what equipment so you don't have people standing around waiting for someone else to finish their job. Just make sure all the prep work is finished before you begin to paint (you don't want the dust from sanding to blow onto your fresh paint).

  • Paint the walls first and then the trim.
  • As you work, you will notice lots of other jobs that need to be done. Suddenly, the foundation needs parging. Or the back porch looks shabby. forget about it. They are separate projects.
  • Don't overload your roller or paint brush. You'll want to avoid drips. Sanding down drips later is hard work and takes time. Load the brush or roller with paint and lightly run the roller across the tray, or gently pull the brush against the side of the can before you paint. Check carefully for drips and paint them out quickly.
  • Keep a damp rag on hand at all times. If you paint a smear on the wall while painting the trim, wipe it off immediately.
  • Try to paint as neatly and carefully as you can. It may take some patience but if you hurry and are sloppy, you'll just have to go back and fix mistakes.
  • If you need to switch a roller for a brush, or take a break and you'll be coming back to use the bush or roller - wrap it up in plastic wrap so the paint does not dry on the brush or roller. Cover your pant can with an id. Cover the roller tray with plastic wrap or a plastic bag and tuck it in. there is no sense in cleaning the brush if you want to use it in an hour or so. If you wash it, it won't be dry enough to use.
  • As you paint, make sure to cover the entire area. Work small sections at a time. Going back to touch up missed spots means more work and more time.
  • Our paint supposedly dried in 4 hours. The manufacturers made the claim that a second coat could then be applied. However, we found that we couldn't rest a ladder on paint that had dried for 5 hours. Even though the edges of the ladder were covered with rags, the weight marred the paint. In a situation where you need to lean a ladder against dried paint, it's better to wait 24 hours.
  • Check the weather report daily. If there is a chance of rain, treat your volunteers to a movie.
  • If the person who is willing to paint the high spots is unavailable for a dew days, wait until he gets back. If someone is extremely nervous climbing up to the highest peak, don't goad him into it or force yourself into a potentially dangerous situation.
  • At the end of the day, clean all your tools thoroughly. Use a comb to clean the brushes. Wash and rinse, then squeeze until the water runs clear.
  • Make sure you keep some of the leftover pant when you are finished for future touch-ups.
  • It takes hard work and patience to paint your house. But, when you are finished, your house will look fantastic, refreshed, and attractive for years to come.

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Comments 2 comments

pedestrian profile image

pedestrian 6 years ago from Van Nuys, California - U.S.A.

I have been painting houses since 1984; my Father was a carpenter and gave me a summer job painting his finished projects. I put myself through College painting houses and hanging/repairing drywall and stucco. I have been both a licensed Painting Contractor and a General Contractor. This was a very detailed and practical article. The only thing I would add is that today's paints are far different chemically than those from the 1980' or 1990's. Most of the formula's have been changed to remove and lower lead & V.O.C.'s. So, I generally start by priming all house trim with a high adhesive primer/sealer if I want the finish coat to last more than a year or two. However, there are new primer/final coat (one step) paints that seem to work well. I will have to wait a few years to let you know how they hold up over the long haul. In California it's impossible now to get the old fashioned oil-based gloss paints that last. Also, caulking has changed a lot over the years - they keep watering down the formula's it seems. Like DAP brand, for instance, is no where near the quality it used to be. Although I do like the quick drying kind. If you want a high quality caulking to last outside you MUST spend some money and get a siliconized or elastomeric 35- 50 year (make sure it's paintable) caulking. A very good article - for a layperson/homeowner:)


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States Author

pedestrian - well thank you. I figured a lay person talking to other lay people...what the heck. The last time we painted the house (before this) it lasted about 10 years. By the 11th year, it was starting to look sad in certain areas. The paint had faded. I appreciate your comment.

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